Student Union Starbucks: Why does it take so long?

Graphic by Ryan Magee | Mercury Staff.

A study conducted by The Mercury revealed that the Starbucks franchise in the Student Union has longer average wait times compared to off-campus Starbucks stores. In a separate survey of 84 SU Starbucks patrons, 88 percent of respondents said they felt the franchise was somewhat or not properly staffed for rush hours at UTD.

Steven Goodwin, Chartwell’s resident district manager for UTD, said student workers comprise 25 percent of the franchise’s staff, whereas full and part-time associates make up the remaining 75 percent. New hires complete a standardized 6-week training course led by corporate-trained employees. New student workers typically complete the course at the beginning of the semester.

Goodwin said the wait times are not unusual since the franchise is located on a college campus.

“We’re not a traditional store,” Goodwin said. “It would just be like if a tour bus pulled up to any of those (off-campus locations), and everyone got off at the same time and came and got in line.”

Graphic by Ryan Magee | Mercury Staff.

The Mercury conducted the study during the week of Sept. 10, measuring the waiting times in line at both the on-campus Starbucks franchise and three off-campus, corporate-run stores. To reduce the number of variables, The Mercury sent its reporters to place the same drink order — an extra hot grande chai latte — at the four locations at approximately 10 a.m. on Monday, Friday and Saturday. The Student Union Starbucks was found to have the longest average waiting time for the week at 18 minutes and 51 seconds. The next longest average waiting time, measured at the Starbucks store at the intersection of West Campbell Road and Coit Road, was 11 minutes and 53 seconds.

44 percent of The Mercury’s survey respondents said they spend 10–20 minutes in line, whereas 20 percent said they spend more than 20 minutes.

Goodwin said while the SU franchise experiences more traffic, there aren’t additional training initiatives to help staff cope with increased demand due to Starbucks’ corporate policies.

“I think the training across the board is the same for any location,” he said. “I think that if they experience that same busload, they will have a line as they move the customers through their process.”

During normal operations, the SU franchise has 4–5 associates working at any given time. Goodwin said Starbucks authorized the franchise to increase its staff to seven active members during periods of high traffic. Additionally, at corporate-run stores, associates only use one register at a time. Starbucks also authorized the SU franchise to use two registers at once to reduce congestion.

Carrie Chutes-Charley, the director of food and retail services, said the volume of traffic at the SU location has prompted discussions about expanding to other areas on campus to help reduce the strain on the SU franchise. She said a new on-campus Starbucks store would likely be a freestanding establishment.

“We know there’s a need, and we need to add on,” Chutes-Charley said.

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